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Published January 25, 2011, 12:00 AM

Parenting Perspectives: Can we ‘have it all’?

For most of my motherhood, I’ve worked part time. In many ways, the limited workweek has provided me the best of both worlds.

By: Sherri Richards, INFORUM

For most of my motherhood, I’ve worked part time.

In many ways, the limited workweek has provided me the best of both worlds: Adult interaction, career fulfillment, contributions to the household income, and plenty of full days spent with my daughter.

But in some ways it’s the worst of both worlds as I allow myself to feel a constant tug between the two.

I remember one warm Tuesday morning when I was jealously eyeing a mom pushing a stroller as I drove to the office. I wondered, “Why can’t that be me?” And then I remembered it was, the day before. But the day before, I was probably thinking about my to-do list at work.

I have a feeling this is something a lot of women struggle with, regardless of how many hours they punch in to a time clock. As a whole, my generation was raised with the belief that we can do it all. The women of previous generations paved the way to this mantra, breaking glass ceilings and taking their seats in the boardroom.

While our gender no longer makes us question whether we can achieve our career goals, we’re now left with a new nagging doubt: At what cost?

“We’ve hit the new glass ceiling – one that keeps women who want a life outside of work from getting ahead and doesn’t allow women who are getting ahead to have a life outside the office,” wrote Lia Macko and Kerry Rubin in “Midlife Crisis at 30,” a book I read this summer as my big 3-0 rolled around.

Women across the country are collectively but silently experiencing this individual identity crisis, Macko and Rubin say. Statistics show 75 percent of women ages 25 to 37 say their jobs interfere with their personal lives. Those who choose to focus on their families often deal with the guilt that they “should” be able to do it all. The authors say we need to redefine what “having it all” means.

I agree. I’ve come to believe we can’t do it all – at least not all at the same time. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

That said, I recently decided to spend a few more of those precious hours at work. There were a lot of factors that went into the decision (my daughter’s age, an opportunity on the table, the lure of benefits) – and a lot of doubts. I’m still not sure how it will go.

Preparing to juggle yet another ball, I turned to my friends for advice, including a query on Facebook. How do you work, make the meals, clean the house and spend time with the kiddos?

My first response, from a mom of three, was brutally honest: “Ha! Ha! Oh, were you serious?” she wrote.

But I did get some good gems, ideas to limit that job/life conflict.

  • Throw a load of laundry in before you go to work. Put it in the dryer when you get home. Fold it before bed.

  • Be kind to yourself if the house isn’t as clean as you’d like. As one friend advised, “If the dust bunnies don’t have names, don’t worry about it!”

  • Meal plan. Cook on the weekends. Double your recipes. Freeze meals.

  • Keep family time, like evening meals, sacred.

  • Online grocery shopping. ’Nuff said.

  • Meet your new best friend: the Crock-Pot.

Now there’s a kitchen utensil to admire. It can work a full day and get a meal on the table by 6 p.m.

Sherri Richards is the mother of a 2½-year-old daughter and is an employee of The Forum. She’s also blogs at www.topmom.areavoices.com.